For most couples that are purposely trying to have a baby, the process is relatively easy. For those of us who struggle, it’s a long, exhausting journey (both physically & emotionally). The worst part about infertility is the unknown. After months and months of “trying” you reach that magical 1 year mark where couples should seek help. I knew something was wrong long before the 1 year mark came around and I did try to seek help. Ladies, I implore you, be your own advocate. For a lot of OBGYN’s, infertility is not their specialty, so you are going to get a lot of “everything is fine and be Patient”. If you feel something is wrong seek out a doctor that will listen to you! While I am not the only woman who has ever suffered infertility, nor will I be the last. My hope is that this blog can possibly help at least one woman out there realize that they are not alone or maybe help them understand what to expect on their own IVF journey.
Step: 1- Stopping BC
After being on birth control for over 12 years, my body was in total shock when I stopped. Suddenly every month turned into almost 2 weeks of excruciating pain. It lasts for about a week before my period and a week during. I started feeling back pain, cramps that would not be alleviated by any pain meds, nausea, fatigue and the list goes on. I had been lucky and to be honest almost never felt cramps in over 12 years of periods. The BC was regulating my hormones and I was blissfully unaware of the war raging in my uterus. Every month the symptoms got worse and worse. Of course i tried googling the symptoms and came across a ton of information on how this was “normal” for women who were no longer on BC to regulate everything. It was either that or ” i was dying” haha. Fast forward 6 months and I found myself in the ER. I had collapsed on the kitchen floor while getting ready for work. Barely able to stand, in a cold sweat with extreme back pain and cramping. It almost felt like a digestion issue (minus the backpain) and when I tried to have a bowel movement it was like something was ripping me in half. I called my husband and off to the ER we went. There they thought it was possibly my appendix but after an internal ultrasound they found it was an ovarian cyst that bursted. I was told it was common and “normal” and to see my regular OBGYN for a follow up.
My first follow up with my OBGYN, she seemed completely unconcerned. In fact the first words that came out of her mouth were “you are lucky this is the first time you have had an ovarian cyst burst”. She told me most women deal with this all the time and that it is common and normal. For ME it was not common or normal and she was completely dismissing me. Her answer was to return to BC even though I had repeatedly mentioned I was trying to conceive. I immediately looked for another doctor and so began my visits to multiple doctors who all told me my pain was “normal” and that they did not know or think that the ovarian cysts would be causing any infertility.
After about 11 months of just dealing with the pain, we started to seek help on not being able to conceive. The pain was just a secondary problem. I went to yet another OBGYN, with my husband Nick, this time to see if we could both get tested. I very much liked the Dr. at first. He seemed very eager to help us and agreed it was time to get help. I again, brought up my excruciating pain. I told him there are days during my cycle where I physically could NOT stand up straight from the pain to the point of feeling faint. He stared me right in the face and told me it was “all part of being a woman” and “normal”. If I’m being honest, it took every ounce of will not to punch him in the face. It was quite easy for a male Dr. to tell me the pain was “normal”. Everyone had me convinced I was just a wuss and clearly not able to handle pain. I even started to see it in my own family and friends that didn’t understand my “period pain”. I looked perfectly healthy. There was no proof to make my pain valid. I had undergone blood tests, ulstrasounds, hysterosalpingogram or HSG (an x-ray procedure that pushes dye through a catheter into my fallopian tubes to see if they were blocked). My tubes were fine and my husbands Semen analysis were almost perfect. We were officially “unexplained” infertility and our next step was to try medication like clomid. We were told that the HSG might have cleared some things out and to try naturally for a few more months. (more time in Limbo)
Step 2: Seeking a specialist.
I had gotten to a point where I was just upset all the time. A sadness that not many people can understand. I had started to express our struggles to close friends and family and while some were great at just listening others just wanted to be helpful but didn’t know how. There’s nothing worse than telling someone going through a long infertility struggle to just be patient or that God has a plan. The emotional pain is Real (struggle for real) and sometimes you just need someone to listen to you. I appreciate everyone who listened and gave the best advise they could. I am so grateful to my close family who have lent me their shoulders to cry on. While I can’t say I have the best luck, I am truly LUCKY to have a husband who has been my rock throughout this whole struggle. I have read that infertility can really break a marriage. No one tells you how HARD trying to conceive can be. In school they teach you that if you even breath near eachother you will get knocked up. An entire adult life preventing something that would never happen naturally. Everyone believes it’s all about having fun and having sex but after 12+ months of “trying”, HAVING to have timed sex is a lot harder than it sounds. Sex is now a chore and a reminder of what you don’t or can’t have. Hi, my name is Jackie and i’m addicted to POAS (peeing on a stick). NO ONE tells you how many times you will pee on a stick and how stressful it’s going to be.(or how much money you will spend) Month after month of peeing on a stick, twice a day every day, just to make sure you catch your ovulation time. Then the dreaded two week wait after ovulation to find out if you’re pregnant. THEN the heartbreak you feel every time you pee on a pregnancy test and it’s negative. No matter how many times it happens, it never gets easier. It affects your mental and physical health. As we both carried our sadness each month, our only choice was to put on our happy masks because quite frankly, infertility sucks. The fastest way to make people super uncomfortable is to start telling them how you can’t make a baby!
One by one everyone around us was getting pregnant and here we were, still childless, still struggling without a reason. As much as I tried to be normal, and tell my pregnant friends that my inability to conceive had nothing to do with my ability to be happy for them, I could see everyone starting to treat us differently. It’s true, with every pregnancy announcement it was like a stab in the heart. No matter how hard I tried I could not control my feelings. But I can honestly say that after the initial bombardment of emotions, I felt true happiness for my friends and family. I was going to be an Aunt! and you better believe the best damn Aunt too. But I could see that my infertility still made other people uncomfortable. I am not perfect by any means but I’ve tried my hardest to put myself in everyone’s else’s shoes and tried my hardest to show that I WAS happy for them. I am grateful for the friends who saw my sincerity and sad over the friends that believed I was secretly jealous. The Truth is, for me personally, as i cannot speak for all women, I don’t feel jealous over my pregnant friends. Quite the opposite. I’m relieved they don’t have to experience what we have experienced. They are creating their own happy little family. All i want is MY own happy little family. What i feel is sadness for us that we can’t figure out the problem.
Nick and I are on this lonely infertile Island and there is nothing we could do but hold on to each other. And I can’t thank him enough for never letting me drown in the sadness alone. There have been days that the only reason i was able to get myself out of bed was because of him (and the pups of course).
Fast Forward a few months after my last Dr.s appointment and countless hours of online researching. (of course i know that’s the worst thing to do!) We decided to seek out a Reproductive Endocrinologist who is a Specialist when it comes to infertility. At our very first meeting we discussed our background, what tests we already had done etc. He seemed mildly interested as we probably sounded like the typical “unexplained infertility” couple. Once again, I brought up my monthly pain and he immediately started asking me more questions and FINALLY for the First time a brand new word was mentioned. ENDOMETRIOSIS. He said, “it sounds like you may have endometriosis, but it’s not something I can confirm without a laparoscopic Surgery”. This is not something that can come up on an ultrasound, x-ray or bloodwork. So if anyone tells you otherwise, they are clearly misinformed. After some discussion, we agreed that I would be monitored and we would try an IUI, since a surgery was not warranted at the time. In all my research, in all my Dr. visits, I had never come across this condition, but once i started researching endometriosis specifically; Everything just fit and made sense.
We did our First and only IUI (think turkey basting Lol) cycle in May 2017 and it unfortunately failed. I allowed myself to cry my heart out that day & then picked myself up that the next cycle would work. During the next appointment to get ready for IUI #2, i was told that my scans showed I had 4 endometriomas or large cysts that were covering my ovaries. Next step would need to be Laparoscopy to remove them. He again suspected endometriosis and told us he believed this was the reason why we couldn’t conceive. While the thought of surgery was scary, I was excited to finally have a fix and hopefully some answers! I had to wait almost an entire month before Surgery was scheduled which was nerve wracking to say the least.
Step 3: Surgery
I had never had surgery before so I had no idea what to expect. The most important thing was to stay positive that they would find a reason for not only all my pain, but as to why a young, healthy couple has not been able to conceive. There were a lot of things to consider, they could do the surgery and find nothing or it could also be so severe I could lose an ovary (or two). Basically every part of this journey has been nothing but stress! For my fellow infertile sisters- I feel your pain. An hour surgery ended up taking almost 3 hours. The results: he had to excise stage IV Endometriosis. Endometriosis is NOT cancerous but categorized in a similar way, with Stage 4 being the most severe. Even the Dr. seemed shocked it was that severe. I had it everywhere, including my ovaries and bowels. When all was said and done he said he couldn’t believe how advanced it was and that i must have been in excruciating pain. FINALLY!!! VALIDATION!! Someone finally confirms that I was in fact not crazy and that it was not just that I couldn’t handle pain well. It was finally a Win. Post Surgery, I did not react well to anesthesia and spent the next 3 days not being able to keep any food or water down. Overall, the recovery was not Terrible. I spent about 6 days on the couch before returning to work and then 6 weeks of just letting my body recover. I was still happy that he found the problem and had such HIGH hopes that things would be better from this point on. At our follow up appointment he mentioned that although he was confident he had removed all the endometriosis, I would have a lot of scarring in its’ place. He said 80% of my ovaries were covered in endometriosis, which means 80% of them would now be covered in scarring. The scarring would prevent the egg from making it’s way into the Fallopian tubes. This is why he believed that IVF would be the only way we could get pregnant. The cost of IVF alone is unbelievable but as Nick and I both agreed. We HAD to try this. We want our own child made up in a perfect combination of both our DNA’s. We know there are other options but we are not there yet. Everyone always mentions adoption and it’s absolutely something we will consider. But until you research adoption you don’t know the cost is about 4x more expensive than 1 IVF cycle. Adoption is also an emotional roller coaster where all your paperwork can be in place and it can still fall through last minute. I have had the opportunity of talking to someone who has gone through it and in comparison it makes the last 15 months seem like a piece of cake. So here we are, getting ready for our next step on the Journey to Baby “A” via IVF. As a Side note: the surgery did not fix my pain unfortunately and the Dr. mentioned that out of 7.4 Billion people on earth only 1% of women have what I have. I am just in the lucky percentage that will still experience pain even after surgery. I don’t even care about that anymore. All i want is a chance to be a mom and give Nick a chance to be a Dad. For all the mother’s & father’s in waiting, I send you baby dust.
My first base ultrasound appointment for IVF is on Friday 9/22/17. Stay tuned.